The light rotary cultivator, redesigned from the machines seen in the 1980s, is coming back into fashion as farmers look for more effective methods of stubble management, blackgrass, weed, volunteer and slug control, according to Claydon Drills.
The company re-introduced the concept earlier this year with the launch of its 6m TerraStar, a unique low-cost, high-output shallow rotary cultivator which can cover 90ha per day behind a 150hp tractor using less than 200 litres of diesel. Now, sales of the new implement, which is manufactured in Claydon’s UK factory, are booming on the back of strong demand from domestic and overseas customers.
“Farmers have been quick to recognise the benefits of the TerraStar as a valuable weapon in their armoury against blackgrass, cereal volunteers, brome grass and other weeds. They recognise its role in creating a shallow tilth and stale seed bed prior to direct/strip drilling, min-till or conventional establishment and for working down land after it has been cultivated or ploughed,” says Jeff Claydon, who has proven its effectiveness on his own arable farm in Suffolk. He adds:
“The TerraStar uses two banks of cross-blade rotors which move slightly more soil than a Claydon Straw Harrow but less than normal tine cultivators or disc-type implements, which create too much fine tilth and present a significant weather risk by either drying out or turning soils slushy. Instead, the TerraStar creates just enough tilth to encourage volunteers and weeds to chit, while assisting with slug control, drainage and the incorporation of manures or root crop residues. That makes it a very valuable stubble management tool, particularly in a season such we are experiencing at the moment”
The key to the TerraStar’s effectiveness are its 68 rotating star-shaped points which are fitted to the two knife bars in a 200mm grid pattern. These cut 80mm-square divots from the top layer of soil to create a shallow cultivation effect, which has the appearance of an egg tray if the surface soil is brushed away. The series of small peaks and hollows which the points create leave the soil surface largely intact and able to support the weight of following machinery, as well as helping water to drain from the surface.
Because of the implement’s high operating speed, around 15-20 km/h, the rotating blades produce thousands of miniature plugs which create a wave of surface tilth approximately 30mm deep, depending on soil type and conditions. This provides an ideal, high-humidity environment in which volunteers and grass weeds germinate quickly and can subsequently be moved by the Claydon Straw Harrow, breaking off germinating plants at the one-leaf stage and eliminating the need to spray while ground conditions allow harrowing.
“The declining effectiveness and increasing cost of agrochemicals is forcing us all to focus on more effective management of stubbles using mechanical solutions, and the TerraStar can be used prior to any cultivation / drilling system” says Jeff Claydon. “On our own farm we have fourteen years’ proof that direct drilling can work very well, but it must be done correctly and in combination with an effective stubble management strategy. Using timings of light surface cultivations with the TerraStar and Straw Harrow, in combination with strip seeding and wider rotations, we have been able to stay on top of weeds and seen yields increase progressively during that time. Ignoring weeds, volunteers and slugs does not make them go away – it is essential to make them grow and kill them so they cannot return.”